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Cycling UK criticises imminent Department for Transport plan for "longer and more hazardous lorries" on Britain's roads

Lorries up to 18.55 metres in length could be allowed from as soon as the end of the month, raising safety concerns for vulnerable road users

Lorries up to 2.05 metres longer than current sizes could be allowed on Britain's roads by the end of the month, the Department for Transport has revealed, in a move criticised by Cycling UK who say the "alarming" plan would see cyclists and pedestrians sharing space with "longer and more hazardous lorries".

The announcement by the DfT comes this morning with the legislation to be laid today (10 May) ahead of roll out from 31 May, allowing semi-trailer combinations up to 18.55 metres to be permitted in a move the government says will "bring [a] £1.4 billion boost" to the economy by "supporting productivity and saving 70,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide".

In an 11-year trial the DfT says the longer semi-trailers (LST) were involved in 61 per cent fewer personal injury collisions than conventional lorries and urged operators to "put extra safety checks and training in place".

Operators will be legally required to ensure appropriate route plans and risk assessments are undertaken as well as use coming with operators being expected, but not legally required, to "put in place extra safety checks including driver training and scheduling, record keeping, training for transport managers and key staff, and loading of LSTs".

However, with 89 cyclists losing their life between 2016 and 2021 in collisions involving a heavy goods vehicle being driven on UK roads, there will be many with safety concerns about riding alongside even larger lorries.

DfT figures show that of 1,353 reported collisions involving a cyclist and an HGV driver in that period, 6.6 per cent resulted in a cyclist fatality, meaning that while the figure of 89 deaths is lower than the 301 cyclist fatalities involving a collision with the driver of a car (0.4 per cent of reported collisions), the percentage is far greater.

Furthermore, with 454 of the aforementioned 1,353 collisions resulting in a cyclist suffering serious injuries, the percentage of reported collisions with an HGV being driven resulting in a cyclist fatality or serious injury was 40 per cent between 2016 and 2021, higher than the respective 24 per cent for collisions involving the driver of a car.

"Alarming"

Cycling UK said this morning's announcement is "alarming" and argued "further testing in real-life scenarios" should be undertaken before the "floodgates" are opened to "longer lorries rolling into our busy town centres and narrow rural lanes".

Campaigns manager Keir Gallagher said: "At a time when funding for infrastructure to keep people cycling and walking safer has been cut, it's alarming that longer and more hazardous lorries could now be allowed to share the road with people cycling and walking.

"Before opening the floodgates to longer lorries rolling into our busy town centres and narrow rural lanes, further testing in real-life scenarios should have been done to assess and address the risks."

Greggs, Morrisons, Stobart, Royal Mail and Argos are expected to use LSTs, having been some of the 300 companies to take part in the trial, Greggs' supply chain director Gavin Kirk stressing "drivers undertook additional training".

"We have monitored accidents, finding that they are as safe as our standard fleet," he said.

The DfT suggests that the new lorries will move the same volume of goods in eight per cent fewer journeys, estimating the effect could be "£1.4 billion in economic benefits" as well as taking "one standard-size trailer off the road for every 12 trips".

"Everyone around the country depends on our haulage sector for their everyday needs – from loo rolls to sausage rolls – and a strong, resilient supply chain is key to the government’s priority to grow the economy," roads minister Richard Holden said.

"These new longer lorries will make a big difference for British businesses like Greggs, who will see 15 per cent more baked goods delivered, from tasty pastries to the nation's much-loved sausage rolls.

"It's fantastic to see this change for our supply chain come into law, resulting in a near £1.4 billion boost to the haulage industry and driving economic growth. Let the good times roll as we reduce congestion, lower emissions and enhance the safety of British roads."

Catch all of the reaction to the announcement over on our live blog...

Dan joined road.cc in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining road.cc, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.

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21 comments

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Capercaillie | 4 months ago
1 like

Has anyone taken into account the cost of repairing additional damage to the roads caused by these heavier longer lorries? I would have thought they also need to survey all bridges, especially older ones, to see if additional strengthening works are required. There are some historic bridges that regularly get struck by lorries such as the one in this article. An even larger lorry would never get across it. https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/another-lorry-gets-stuck-tiver...

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Mr.B-Campag replied to Capercaillie | 4 months ago
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There should have been some inclusion of any change in the costs of road mainteance in their appraisal at a high level. Unlikely to have been any detailed modelling on particular routes. Again it would be interesting to see their appraisal.

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macbaby | 4 months ago
2 likes

How about getting some of those in DoT who came up with this onto a bicycle and have an 18.55m monster overtake them with a pedestrian refuge coming up. They'll soon change their thinking - maybe even shorten the maximum length

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Mr.B-Campag replied to macbaby | 4 months ago
3 likes

I'd be very surprised if someone at the DfT came up with this idea, more likely the road haulage association badgered the Tories for it...Plenty of people at the DfT ride bikes, but their job (when they're not being part of the woke blob obv.) is to implement the government's policies.

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Mr.B-Campag | 4 months ago
2 likes

A bit conflicted on this one. My gut reaction is that bigger lorries on the roads is not a great idea, for all the reasons outlined here. But I imagine it could be possible that this results in improved safety overall if it leads to fewer HGVs on the road and that outweighs any increase in the likelihood of additional and/or more severe accidents (if there is an increase). I note on the latter the article suggests fewer accidents involving these in the trial, but can't help wondering if those in the trial would (even if only subconsciously) be more inclined to drive safely. The companies that participated in the trial are also probably at the 'better' end of the road safety spectrum for HGV operators. Some of that also might have been brought about by vulnerable road users altering their behaviour (ie. us riding in a more defensive manner).

I note the article suggests this was an 11 year trial which I assume is erroneous, which makes me wonder what else is incorrectly reported here. I'm also sceptical of the congestion claims, that's not how things work (including the DfT's demand modelling) - reduced generalised costs lead to increases in traffic, including from hauliers. Add that to the lower costs of operation and you could well end up with very similar amounts of larger HGVs on the road.  

If I were Cycling UK I'd put in an FOI to see DfT's business case and appraisal summary table etc...

 

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Awavey replied to Mr.B-Campag | 4 months ago
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If I were CyclingUK I'd presume they'd been on top of this for the past 11 years already given these vehicles already move among us

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ShutTheFrontDawes | 4 months ago
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The article says that operators are not legally required, to "put in place extra safety checks including driver training and scheduling, record keeping, training for transport managers and key staff, and loading of LSTs".

This is absolutely not true. Like any other business, logistics operators are absolutely required (iaw Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974) to demonstrate that health and safety risk (including to the public) has been reduced as far as reasonably practicable. Appropriate safety controls to reduce the quantum of risk absolutely should include the training of personnel.

It will be interesting to see how the increase in the quantum of risk is considered acceptable. Operators have demonstrated for decades that using shorter lorries absolutely is 'practicable'.

I for one will be writing to my MP.

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Simon E | 4 months ago
2 likes

"a near £1.4 billion boost to the haulage industry and driving economic growth"

It's funny how these things are sold to us as miracle cures for various things when they simply are not.

Are they printing extra money now as well? Or does it grow on trees? Where is that 1.4 billion quid going to appear from and whose pockets will it go into? It's a lot more than the active travel budget that has been slashed, because we all know that is a waste of time and money and helps no-one.

An extra 2m doesn't sound like much but that's going to mean they use even more of the road on a right hand bend, at a roundabout or junction; while an overtake (e.g. of a cyclist or group of cyclists) will mean they're on the other side of the road for even longer... presuming they don't cut back in early because, well, we all know that too many people don't give a f**k about cyclists, who shouldn't be on the road in the first place.

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Mr.B-Campag replied to Simon E | 4 months ago
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The £1.4bn will be the (presumably discounted) sum of cost reductions (presumably over the standard 30 year appraisal period) as a result of the measure (or at least DfT's modelling of the likely impacts of the measure). Whose pockets that ends up depends on the relative strengths of the buyers and sellers of haulage services. My guess is a lot of it will end up in eg. supermarkets' pockets who, as we know, are loathe to hand much, if any, of that to hard pressed consumers (ie us). It's not clear if that figure also includes the value of CO2 abated (again discounted over thirty years). To the extent that firms actually pay for those emissions (or their abatement) then the same logic applies to the ultimate distribution of these monies.

So sadly no magic money tree, and it definitely won't end up in the DfT's coffers (even if it did the Treasuty would take it from them - they hate hypothecation).

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Adam Sutton | 4 months ago
1 like

This is going to sound like a "I am not racist, but..." kind of comment. 

Does this include allowing foreign vehicles of increased length?

Currenty the main road through us is shut for who knows how long, due to a burst water main causing a huge collapse. This has diverted HGV traffic, but the big issue has been, largely foreign lorries, not understanding the diversion signs and getting stuck in back roads through the town that were never designed for HGVs.

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Off the back | 4 months ago
5 likes

I see the completely overlooked issue of actually being able to manouvre longer vehicles in many narrow twisting roads hasnt been mentioned. 

I see so many trucks having to take extremely wide turns for some junctions and the extra length is only going to create more issues. If the current length HGVs are struggling to get through some inner city roads how the hell are longer ones meant to manage? They should be reserved for A-B long haul where motorways and duel carriageways are the only roads they occupy. They have no place on single lane roads. Having these anywhere near populated areas is a recipe for disaster. 

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marmotte27 | 4 months ago
7 likes

Why does one get the impression that virtually ALL current politics is exactly the opposite of what actually would need to happen? It boggles the mind...

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marmotte27 replied to marmotte27 | 4 months ago
1 like

"saving 70,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide"

And I just hate when "saving CO2" is so totally hypocritically rolled out when there is clearly no intention of saving any at all, quite to the contrary.

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Morgoth985 replied to marmotte27 | 4 months ago
0 likes

Welcome to politics 

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hawkinspeter replied to marmotte27 | 4 months ago
3 likes

marmotte27 wrote:

Why does one get the impression that virtually ALL current politics is exactly the opposite of what actually would need to happen? It boggles the mind...

It's a desperate last cash grab for oil/motor companies before the end of civilisation as we know it

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brooksby | 4 months ago
8 likes

Quote:

In an 11-year trial the DfT says the longer semi-trailers (LST) were involved in 61 per cent fewer personal injury collisions than conventional lorries and urged operators to "put extra safety checks and training in place".

I wonder if that's because the drivers cannot take these extended HGVs into built up areas where there are - you know - people.

I mean, we read all the time about normal sized HGVs getting stuck, so I can't see an operator wanting to take their extended HGV into a village.  Roads were not built for HGVs, after all...

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HoldingOn | 4 months ago
4 likes

I wonder if there will be an interesting knock-on effect:
Drivers misjudging the length of the lorry they are overtaking, meaning they are on the wrong side of the road for longer.

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ITK2012 replied to HoldingOn | 4 months ago
1 like

60mph = 27m/s, the trailer is 2m longer, which is 0.075 seconds extra to overtake the lorry. If it has any significant effect on the ability for someone to overtake that person probably shouldn't be driving to start with.

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HoldingOn replied to ITK2012 | 4 months ago
3 likes

ITK2012 wrote:

If it has any significant effect on the ability for someone to overtake that person probably shouldn't be driving to start with.

if the cut off point is "shouldn't be driving" then I would suggest it is liable to have significant effect....

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danhopgood replied to ITK2012 | 4 months ago
13 likes

ITK2012 wrote:

60mph = 27m/s, the trailer is 2m longer, which is 0.075 seconds extra to overtake the lorry. If it has any significant effect on the ability for someone to overtake that person probably shouldn't be driving to start with.

Huh?  That figure is the relative speed between overtaking vehicle and vehicle being overtaken.  So for that timing,  if the lorry's doing 50, the overtaking vehicle would have to be doing 50+60 = 110mph.  Relative speed is more likely to be around 10mph.  Additional overtaking time for that is 0.6s.  Enough for a few near misses to turn into fatals I reckon...

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ShutTheFrontDawes replied to danhopgood | 4 months ago
0 likes

Simple solution: drive at 110mph. Much safer. Problem solved.

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